If you’re considering taking an epic adventure motorcycle trip, Europe might not be the destination that pops to mind first…but it should be. Europe isn’t as remote as South America or Mongolia, and, true, riding here isn’t nearly as adventurous as traversing the African continent or traveling Siberia.
However, Europe is full of surprises: from stunning mountain twisties and awe-inspiring Mediterranean routes to serious off-road trails in the Balkans, Spain, and Portugal, this continent packs a punch. If you’re looking for best ADV motorcycle destinations in Europe, here’s what’s not to miss:
Best On-Road Adventure Motorcycle Routes in Europe
When it comes to tarmac roads for adventure riding, few places can rival the Swiss Alps. Switzerland is Europe’s motorcycling Mecca, and for good reason: endless curves, stunning mountain passes, and jaw-dropping views of the Alps are all on the menu when you’re riding here. And the best part is, you can combine the Swiss Alps with the Italian Dolomites if you’ve got another week to spare.
When planning your adventure motorcycle route in Switzerland, aim for the Julier Pass – one of the highest and most spectacular passes in the country – and you’ll soon find yourself on the Italian side enjoying local espresso and the curvy roads leading to Passo Stelvio, Europe’s most famous mountain road popular among local and visiting motorcyclists alike. Julier Pass and Passo Stelvio are easily two of the most breathtaking mountain roads in Europe, but plan your adventures right: the best time to ride here is from late May to mid-September. Any earlier or later, and you might be riding in the snow!
Most riders assume the Amalfi Coast in Italy is Europe’s best coastal road, but that’s not the case. While Amalfi is definitely worth a visit, there’s another incredible coastal route that should make it to your bucket list: the Adriatic Coast. Croatia is one of the most beautiful countries for adventure motorcycling in Europe, and the Adriatic Sea route is a must if you love sun-drenched twisties, quaint little seaside towns, and delicious local food.
The Adriatic Coast does get a little crowded during the summer months, however, so aim to ride here in September when the tourists leave and you can have the place to yourself. Pro tip – make sure to make a detour to Krk Island offering stunning cliff views, dramatic coastline, and excellent riding along the way.
Want to ride silky-smooth tarmac with countless curves and bends and enjoy forest-covered mountain views, but avoid tourist crowds and traffic? Head for Slovenia. This tiny European country boasts some of the most spectacular roads on the continent, and most of its territory is mountainous – which means bends, hairpins, serpentines, and switchbacks from border to border. Slovenia is best experienced in the summer months, although September can also be beautiful here – especially if you prefer solitude.
Best Off-Road Adventure Motorcycle Routes in Europe
What’s an adventure ride without a little gravel? If you’re hoping to cover some dirt miles in Europe, plan to head South. Most Western and Northern European countries have outlawed or severely restricted off-road riding, so your best bet are the Balkans and Southern Europe.
Romania is the undisputed paradise of off-road riding in Europe. The Carpathian Mountains provide a perfect playground for dirt riding: from fast-flowing gravel roads suitable for big ADV bikes to narrow, technical mountain and forest trails, Romania has got it all if you want to get off pavement. And the icing on the cake? Transalpina and Transfagarasan – two of Europe’s most awe-inspiring mountain roads ideal for some on-road riding if you need to take a break from dirt and enjoy a scenic ride.
Romania is best ridden in the summer months, as the mountain passes get chilly and rainy in early spring and late fall.
Greece is home to Europe’s biggest rally races like Hellas Rally and Greece Rally, and for good reason. Greece has virtually unlimited off-road riding: both inland and along the coast, there’s no shortage of stunning mountain trails, gnarly terrain, and sandy tracks (yes, get-a-serious-pair-of-knobbies type of sandy). To find the best off-road trails in the mountains, head for a ski town of Karpenissi and hit the first dirt road you see – you’re guaranteed to fall off the grid for days here.
Greece is a year-round motorcycling destination, but avoid December, January, and February if you’re planning to ride in the mountains.
The island of Sardinia off the Italian coast is Europe’s best-kept secret when it comes to dirt riding. Sardinia is large, and there are so many incredible off-road trails here you can easily spend two weeks exploring its mountains, beaches, abandoned mines, and forest tracks. Sardinia is best explored during September and October months or in the spring, as the weather here gets impossibly hot in the summer.
For riders hoping to combine both on-road and off-road adventures, Spain and Portugal are easily the best ADV motorcycle destinations in Europe. In Spain, the Pyrenees in the North offer countless stunning mountain twisties, and once you’re ready for some dirt action, head for Andalucia, the El Dorado of off-road riding ranging from mountain trails to desert tracks. In Portugal, coastal routes are perfect for leisurely cruising, and once you turn inland, there are so many excellent dirt and gravel roads to explore you’ll easily spend a few weeks in the country.
If you’re planning to ride Europe in the winter months, one of the best ADV destinations for December, January, and February is Crete, an island off the Greek coast. Situated closer to Africa than it is to Europe, Crete has it all: sand dunes and deserted beaches in the South, mind-blowing mountain roads inland, and plenty of great dirt roads crisscrossing the entire island. Add excellent local cuisine and unparalleled Cretan hospitality, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a motorcycle adventure.
The best ADV motorcycle destinations in Europe aren’t just about stunning roads, mountain passes, and great riding – it’s also about the local motorcycle culture and new experiences. Get inspired, and get going – and don’t forget to tell us about your adventures when you return!